In an op-ed today in the Washington Times, Frank Donatelli smeared efforts to pass portions of health reform through reconciliation as an “arcane backroom procedure,” while referring to the legislation with the pejorative label “Obamacare.” Donatelli, who is a regular opinion writer for the Times, is also a frequent political pundit on CNN. In giving Donatelli a free platform to attack health reform, neither media outlet has disclosed that Donatelli is the director of public affairs for McGuireWoods Consulting (an affiliate of the law firm McGuireWoods LLP), a major lobbying firm that is currently representing Blue Cross Blue Shield.
Donatelli, whose firm has already received three separate payments of $54,000 from Blue Cross Blue Shield to lobby Congress and the administration, is also associated with various right-wing groups organizing to defeat reform:
— Donatelli’s McGuireWoods is a client of Shirley & Banister Public Affairs, an infamous GOP public relations firm with a history of working for health insurers like CIGNA and Aetna. Shirley & Banister is currently managing Let Freedom Right, a right-wing group preparing to run anti-health reform videos.
— Donatelli is the chairman of the Republican recruitment group GOPAC. At a GOPAC conference earlier this month, Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) declared that President Obama’s health reform plans should “be put out of business.” Other speakers lined up to similarly malign reform.
But Donatelli is not the only opponent of reform mobilizing opposition without disclosing ties to the health insurance industry.
The American Conservative Union is a right-wing “grassroots” organization that is currently mobilizing anti-reform activities around Congressional town halls. The group boasts that attendees at Democratic town halls were reading questions from “talking points off a guide produced by the American Conservative Union,” and recently the group distributed a letter that said health reform would “pull the plug on grandma.” ACU’s chairman David Keene is a lobbyist for the Carmen Group, a firm that represents various health care interests, including the New York health insurer HealthFirst.
In Florida, Richard Willich attempted to organize a “leaded tea party” where opponents of reform could gather for speeches while firing guns at a shooting range. Willich, the new state chairman for Americans for Prosperity — a group run by a former associate of Jack Abramoff — is also the president of MDI Holdings, a company with several health care subsidiaries which work closely with insurers. Similarly, Corey Lewandowski — the New Hampshire state director of Americans for Prosperity who organized the protest outside of President Obama’s health reform town hall a few weeks ago — is a chief lobbyist for Schwartz Communications, a firm representing pharmaceutical and medical device companies. Fox News aired several interviews of Lewandowski without once noting his role representing corporate health care interests.